Let us look a little at these peoples. Where shall we start in? The old rule of the Master's command, and of the early Church's practice, was to begin "at Jerusalem," and keep moving until the outmost limit of the world was reached. I suppose that practically, in service, beginning at Jerusalem means beginning just where you are, and then reaching out to those nearest, and then less near, until you have touched the farthest.
But the old Jerusalem rule will make a good geographical rule for us English-speaking people, with an ocean between us, in getting a fresh look at this old world that the Master asks us to carry in our hearts and on our hands. So we'll begin there.
The needle of a magnetic compass always points north. The needle of the compass of progress has always pointed west; at least always since the Medo-Persian was the world-power. But it is striking that the compass of the world's need always points its needle toward the east. And so, starting at Jerusalem, we may well turn our faces east as we take our swing around the world to learn its need.
It may be a relief to you to know at once that there will not be any statistics in this series of talks. We want instead just now to get broad and general, but distinct, impressions. Statistics are burdensome to most people. They are a good deal of a bugbear to the common crowd of us every-day folks. They are absolutely essential. They are of immense, that is, immeasurable, value. You need to have them at hand where you can easily turn for exact information, as you need it, to refresh your memory. And an increasing amount of it will stick in your memory and guide your thinking and praying.
There are easily available, in these days of such remarkable missionary activity, an abundance of fresh statistics, in attractive form. We are greatly indebted to the Student Volunteer Movement and the Young People's Missionary Movement and the Church Societies for the great service they have done in this matter of full fresh information.
But the thing of first importance is to get an intelligent thought of the whole world. And then to add steadily to our stock of particular information, as study and prayer and service call for it. It is possible to get a simple grasp of the whole world. And it helps immensely to do it.
It helps at once to this end to remember that two-thirds of all the peoples of the earth are in the distinctly heathen, or non-Christian, lands. This in itself is a tremendous fact, telling at once of the world's need. At the beginning of the twentieth hundred-years since Jesus gave His command to preach His Gospel to all men, two-thirds of them are still in ignorance of Him and under the same moral sway as when He went away.
I might add that there are a billion people in these two-thirds. But that figure is so big as only to stagger the mind in an attempt to take it in. The important thing is to see that it doesn't by its sheer bigness, stagger our faith or our courage or our praying habit. We want to be like the old Hebrew who "staggered not" at God's promise to do for him a naturally impossible thing. Yet it is well to repeat that word "billion," for it brings up sharply and gigantically the staggering need of the world for Christ.
One-third is in lands commonly called Christian. Though we must use that word "Christian" in the broadest and most charitable sense in making that statement.